AMITE - A state judge handed convicted murderer Michael Varnado two consecutive life sentences Wednesday for the 2007 murders of Mykell Roberts, 1, and Demetrios Collier Jr., 2 months, who died in a fire that destroyed their mobile home.
Varnado also received a 40-year sentence from District Judge Ray Chutz of 21st Judicial District Court for a manslaughter conviction in the death of the children’s mother, Juana Roberts, 20, who was killed the same day as the fire.
Conviction on a charge of second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
Mykell Roberts also was Varnado’s biological daughter.
Varnado was convicted of the crimes Sept. 22 after a nearly two-week trial on charges of first-degree murder.
Varnado made no statement during the sentencing, but Beverly Avant, who said she is Juana Roberts’ aunt, read a statement.
“On February 16, 2007, their lives came to an end,” she said. “Part of ours did also.
“Birthdays come, and we visit the grave sites,” Avant continued. “There are no cakes, no balloons, no McDonald’s, and no space walks.
“We cannot replace our loved ones, only remember,” she said.
After Varnado’s sentencing, Avant said that the family could finally begin to move on.
“We are very satisfied with the sentence,” she said. “We are just glad it’s over with.”
Avant said Juana Roberts’ relatives were praying for Michael Varnado and his family.
“He is God’s child,” she said.
Several members of the jury gathered in the courtroom and watched the sentencing together.
Eleven of the jurors were willing to convict Varnado of first-degree murder, said Devin Core, 19, a juror in the case.
Second-degree murder, Core said, “was a compromise verdict. One juror didn’t feel there was enough evidence to convict on first-degree murder.
“That was her right,” Core said.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Varnado smothered Juana Roberts, and then poured gasoline on the children before setting a space heater to ignite the gasoline after he had left the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer where Roberts lived with the children.
The children died of smoke inhalation, forensic pathologist Susan Garcia testified during the trial.
The fire was discovered by Varnado’s mother, Diana, whose panicked 911 call was replayed for jurors during the trial.
Varnado and Roberts had a rocky relationship characterized by arguing, several witnesses testified during the trial.
The 21st Judicial District is comprised of Tangipahoa, Livingston and St. Helena parishes.